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10-12-16 Education in the News

Star Ledger--Should Christie get to revise N.J.'s school rating system?

TRENTON — With a new federal education law set to take effect next school year, Gov. Chris Christie's administration has the chance to revise New Jersey's school rating system just before he leaves office. 

But that doesn't mean Christie should take advantage of that opportunity, a Democratic state lawmaker said Tuesday. 

Sen. Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex) suggested New Jersey seek an extension from the U.S. Department of Education that would allow the state to submit its new school accountability plan after the next governor takes office in 2018.

That would allow Christie's successor, possibly a Democrat, to decide what factors New Jersey schools are rated on and what to do about schools that don't meet the state's expectations. 

"I really think this is important that our new governor and new team be part of this," Diegnan said during a meeting of the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Public Schools. "I don't think (Christie's) team should be doing that." 


Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com| October 11, 2016 at 4:00 PM, updated October 11, 2016 at 5:20 PM


Star Ledger--POLL: Should schools ban clown Halloween costumes?

MONTCLAIR — The Halloween costume that's all the rage this year? Well, one is certainly causing rage, and rules against it.

Montclair Public Schools made headlines last week after prohibiting students from wearing clown costumes to school on Halloween, a reaction to the rash of creepy clown hoaxes, threats, and attacks that have plagued the country.

In light of a rash of creepy clown social media threats, one N.J. district is preemptively disallowing the previously popular costumes this Halloween.

In a letter to parents, the district's interim superintendent said that children who do go to school dressed as clowns will be asked to change, or leave school.

NJ.com readers were split on the rule, with some calling the rule "ridiculous" and an overreaction, and others saying that it is a good idea, and could protect kids who innocently dress up as clowns, and get attacked by others who are frightened.


Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|on October 11, 2016 at 8:25 AM, updated October 11, 2016 at 9:10 AM


NY Times--Tech Companies Expect Free High-Speed Internet for Poorer Americans to Pay Off Later

WASHINGTON — There is an axiom in technology: New products typically go to wealthy customers first, before prices eventually fall to reach the masses.

With broadband now classified like a utility, telecom and tech companies, including Sprint, Comcast and Facebook, are increasingly working to make high-speed internet accessible to every American, not just a luxury. The companies are among those that have set their sights on bringing free or cheap high-speed internet service to low-income and rural populations in the United States, spurred by philanthropy and, for some, the hope of turning Americans who are not online today into full-paying customers in the future.

Those goals were on display Tuesday, when Sprint announced that it planned to give one million low-income high school students a free device and a free high-speed data plan until graduation. Facebook is also working to bring to the United States a service known as Free Basics, which gives people free access to certain websites, including Facebook. Comcast recently loosened requirements for its low-cost broadband service, expanding it to anyone in public housing.



Education Week--Storm Clouds Over Ed-Tech Law's Renewal

Approval in House, speed bump in Senate

Congress has made a late, bipartisan push to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which governs vocational and other programs that teach workforce and career-related skills.

But it's still unclear, with a presidential election and a lame-duck session coming up, whether lawmakers will be able to get a bill to President Barack Obama's desk before a new administration and new session of Congress begin.

Written by Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act—passed by a 405-5 vote in the House last month—would provide states and districts more leeway when it comes to accountability and goals for CTE programs. It also would establish a new definition for students concentrating in such programs and give states more flexibility over their use of federal dollars.

For the most part, both lawmakers and CTE advocates have hailed the bill. But momentum was checked last month when the Senate education committee postponed a hearing on a Republican-backed Perkins reauthorization bill. The main political flashpoint with the Senate bill: proposed prohibitions on the authority of the U.S. secretary of education that echo separate fights over the Every Student Succeeds Act.


By Andrew Ujifusa|October 4, 2016


Washington Post--Facebook-backed school software shows promise — and raises privacy concerns

Summit's Personalized Learning Platform shows where a student is in the year-long learning plan. Blue rectangles represent cognitive skill projects. Green rectangles represent "power focus areas," or discrete concepts for students to learn. (Summit Public Schools)

By Emma Brown and Todd C. Frankel October 11 at 7:02 PM

Caroline Pollock Bilicki felt uneasy about the new education program introduced this year at her children’s Chicago school.

Summit Basecamp, built with the help of Facebook engineers, was billed as a powerful tool that could reshape how students learn. Dozens of schools nationwide have signed up to use the program, which tailors lessons to individual students using software that tracks their progress.

But it also captures a stream of data, and Bilicki had to sign a consent form for her children to participate, allowing their personal data to be shared with companies such as Facebook and Google. That data, the form said, could include names, email addresses, schoolwork, grades and Internet activity. Summit Basecamp promised to limit its use of the information — barring it from being used, for example, to deliver targeted ads — but Bilicki agonized over whether to sign the form.

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“I’m not comfortable with having my kids’ personally identifiable information going to I don’t even know where, to be used for I’m not sure what,” she said.

A joint project of Facebook and the high-performing charter-school network Summit Public Schools, Basecamp is an example of an increasingly popular education trend — data-driven “personalized learning.” Its most fervent backers have framed it as the next big thing in education, re-imagining how classrooms work and allowing teachers to reach students across a wide spectrum.


By Emma Brown and Todd C. Frankel October 11 at 7:02 PM


NJ 105--Should NJ wait for new governor, president before finishing new education plan?

A new federal education law gives the state and local districts more control over New Jersey schools. But some are already raising concerns about a spring deadline for a plan to be submitted.

At issue is that a four-year plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act is due to be submitted in March by the Department of Education of the lame-duck administration of Gov. Chris Christie. That plan potentially could be at odds with the priorities of whatever candidate gets elected governor next year.

“We do resubmit every four years, and so we will be obligated to follow our plan for about four years,” Diana Pasculli, the DOE deputy chief external affairs officer, told the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools at a hearing Tuesday.

Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, said “a governor on his way out the door” shouldn’t be submitting the plan and that he isn’t even sure who the education commissioner is currently. (Kimberley Harrington became the acting commissioner last month.) He noted the president will also be changing in January.

“Can we get an extension? I mean I really think this is important that our new governor and their team be part of this deliberation process,” Diegnan said. “I don’t think this team should be doing it.”

Assemblyman David Wolfe, R-Ocean, shared Diegnan’s concerns.


By Michael Symons October 11, 2016 5:48 PM